WASHINGTON -- Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, sentenced to 35 years in custody for giving a trove of top secret U.S. material to WikiLeaks, is asking the White House for a presidential pardon and release from prison because, as she said in her application, "The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world we live in."
In the pardon request, filed Tuesday and made public Wednesday, Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, said she leaked more than 700,000 military and State Department records in an effort to show that the U.S. in fighting two wars had "consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The 25-year-old inmate, now housed at the central military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., added: "When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability."
Her rhetoric is a departure from what Manning said in a short statement last month from the witness stand during her military court martial at Fort Meade, Md. At that time, Manning asked for leniency and formally apologized to the judge, saying she never meant to hurt the U.S. or the public.
The pardon request likely will not see any immediate action, as White House officials have said it will be put through the normal process that often takes years or longer.
Many inside the Pentagon and the administration, however, doubt Manning will ever be pardoned by President Barack Obama. The president's first term was marred by a series of deeply embarrassing revelations from the Manning leaks, both in divulging classified military strategy and secret State Department cables that often disparaged foreign countries that are U.S. allies.
Manning was convicted of espionage, computer fraud and federal theft for releasing the material she collected in 2009 and 2010 while an Army intelligence analyst stationed outside Baghdad. Military prosecutors had asked for a 60-year sentence, but the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, gave her 35 years. In eight years, Manning will be eligible for parole.
After the conviction, Manning announced that she wanted to be called "Chelsea" and hoped to obtain a sex-change operation. But officials at Fort Leavenworth said Manning will be considered a man and be housed in the all-male prison, and that the prisoner's mail must be addressed to "Bradley Manning" or it will not be delivered. In addition, they said, the prison does not facilitate sex-change procedures.
By Richard A. Serrano
Tribune Washington Bureau